‘Day of freedom’ as Ireland steps further out of lockdown

A series of restrictions have been lifted as the country moves back towards a more normal life.

Shoppers queue in Dublin City centre
Shoppers queue in Dublin City centre

Leo Varadkar has hailed a “day of freedom” as businesses across the country reopen and Ireland takes another step out of lockdown.

This week about 12,000 businesses will reopen their doors after months of pandemic restrictions, with up to 100,000 going back to work.

Mr Varadkar said the Government will continue to support businesses where necessary, but that financial support will be “phased out over time”.

He said: “I think today is a day of freedom. People can travel freely anywhere on the island, we can meet our friends and family outdoors, indoors if you’re vaccinated.

“Religious services are back, which is very important to people of faith.”

He added: “What I really want to say is thank you. Thank you to the Irish people for getting us this far.

“Thank you to the HSE for running such a good vaccination programme. And also thank you to Irish business because they’ve had to make enormous sacrifices over the past few months.”

Mr Varadkar told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “I just want everyone who is in business to know that the Government is going to be there, to continue to support you financially.

“To give you a chance to bounce back after a really difficult year of trading.”

He said existing financial supports will remain exactly as they are “at least until the end of June”.

At the end of May the Government will give clarity over the next steps for the financial support systems, he said.

The Tanaiste again insisted there will be “no cliff edge” to the support.

He added: “But this can’t go on forever. This is borrowed money so it will have to be phased out over time.

“We will make a distinction obviously, between firms and sectors that are still closed or suffering the most, as opposed to those that will be able to bounce back quite quickly once they’re up and running.

“But things like the wage subsidy scheme, probably the most important individual action for business, we’d anticipate that staying in place for some time.”

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the message was getting through to people that they have to remain cautious and that they continue to adhere to the measures in place.

“The disease remains in a well-controlled situation and has done for a number of weeks and we’re watching that very, very closely,” he told RTE News at One.

“And the reason that is the case is not because we’ve got the vaccine levels where they are capable of controlling the disease at a population level, it’s because people have kept up a very strong adherence to the measures.

“So as we roll through vaccination, we need people to keep up that level of close adherence to the measures and not get ahead of where we’re recommending.”

He added: “So we can do things, but we don’t need to get ahead of where we are and I think that’s our key message now.”

Ireland is taking further steps back towards normality as a series of lockdown restrictions lifted on Monday.

A phased reopening of non-essential retail will begin, with click-and-collect services and in-store shopping by appointment allowed.

Coronavirus restrictions easing
A shopper in Dublin City centre (Damian Storan/PA)

Large numbers gathered outside Penneys on Dublin’s O’Connell St on Monday, as the clothing store reopened its doors to customers by appointment.

Restrictions on inter-county travel have also lifted while some of the limitations on indoor and outdoor social gatherings have eased.

Many museums, galleries and libraries are now able to reopen and the number of people allowed to attend religious services, including weddings and funerals, has increased to 50.

Indoor wedding receptions will be capped at six people and 15 for outdoor celebrations.

Three households, or up to six people from individual households, can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens.

Vaccinated households can also meet with an unvaccinated household indoors – without masks or social distancing – provided they are not at risk of severe illness and there are no more than three households present.

Coronavirus – Mon May 10, 2021
A priest celebrates Mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Dublin (Damian Storan/PA)

This measure will enable grandparents to meet and hug other family members indoors.

Three vaccinated households are also allowed to meet indoors without masks or social distancing.

Team sports training for adults in pods of 15 is also now permitted.

The capacity allowed on public transport has also increased to 50%.

Next Monday retail will reopen fully, with a variety of other restrictions due to lift in June.

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